Funny Business with Jane Wells

Will 2011 Be a Good Year for Wine?

I am in Napa Valley today.

Indulge me as I gloat. Remember I had to report from a Wyoming buffalo ranch last winter in—10-degree weather. I got pig manure on my boots in Iowa last month.

So ... I feel I kinda earned this (truth be told, I absolutely loved covering those other stories).

Usually, when I'm in a field somewhere, I am without, ahem, facilities. But not only am I in Napa—Napa!—the soundman also brought in a trailer. With a bathroom and an espresso machine! I'm pretending to be Oprah on location.

Last night I enjoyed a dry-aged New York Strip with a 2007 Folie a Deux Cabernet Sauvignon at Cole's Chop House.

Yes. I did.

I'm hoping the new bosses at Comcast will cover the tab, but, if not, I will. Totally worth it.

But everything is not coming up rosê in Napa this year. The spring was cold and wet. Some vines didn't "set" well, and growth is about three weeks behind normal.

Peter Mondavi, Jr., runs the Charles Krug Winery with his father and brother (his uncle, the late Robert Mondavi, broke off to start his own operation decades ago, now owned by Constellation Brands). Mondavi's family has seen good years and bad, but 2011 is one big question mark.

Modavi on Weather

"The Cabernet could be off potentially 20, 25 percent, at least in our vineyards," Mondavi said.

In the first clip, he explains why.

Growing wine grapes in Napa is one of California's oldest industries. But with increasing competition globally in a recession, some in Napa are embracing one of California's newest industries: Facebook and Twitter.

Mondavi on Marketing

Napa wineries are also increasing their direct to consumer sales through wine clubs and beefed up retail stores, though this still only makes up about 10 percent of all sales.

"Marketing is key," said Mondavi, who recently lost his CFO but decided to replace him with a COO who has a sales background. He added that newcomers in particular are using social media.

Mondavi on Pinot Noir

Finally, what's selling well? In Napa, it will always be Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm hearing that Zinfandel sales have tanked in some places. What about Pinot Noir and Merlot?

Mondavi said seven years after "Sideways" came out, Merlot sales have finally started to come back, but he's been surprised by what's happened with Pinot.

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